The carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) is a root vegetable, usually orange in colour, though purple, black, red, white, and yellow cultivars exist. Carrots are a domesticated form of the wild carrot, Daucus carota, native to Europe and southwestern Asia. The plant probably originated in Persia and was originally cultivated for its leaves and seeds. The most commonly eaten part of the plant is the taproot, although the greens are sometimes eaten as well. The domestic carrot has been selectively bred for its greatly enlarged, more palatable, less woody-textured taproot.
The carrot is a biennial plant in the umbellifer family Apiaceae. At first, it grows a rosette of leaves while building up the enlarged taproot. Fast-growing cultivars mature within three months (90 days) of sowing the seed, while slower-maturing cultivars are harvested four months later (120 days). The roots contain high quantities of alpha- and beta-carotene, and are a good source of vitamin K and vitamin B6, but the belief that eating carrots improves night vision is a myth put forward by the British in World War II to mislead the enemy about their military capabilities.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that world production of carrots and turnips (these plants are combined by the FAO) for the calendar year 2013 was 37.2 million tonnes; almost half (~45%) were grown in China. Carrots are widely used in many cuisines, especially in the preparation of salads, and carrot salads are a tradition in many regional cuisines.
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